The K-Fashion Odyssey now in its last week marks a return by the KCC to London Fashion Week’s International Fashion Showcase event. Their participation in 2012 – A New Space Around the Body (LKL review here) – won the British Council’s and British Fashion Council’s Emerging Talent Award. This year’s participation, which has just as much impact, is led by the same curatorial team. It showcases five designers, four of whom are graduates of Central St Martins.
Chloe Kim moved to London aged 18 attracted by images of punks on the streets of the capital city. But her creation for the K-Fashion Odyssey has a very different inspiration: the Dickensian character Miss Havisham and also the techniques of traditional Korean ink painting, 수묵담채화. The imaginative installation of her work conjures up the atmosphere of a dream world, in which a decades-old wedding dress seems to merge into a forest, set in a landscape which is part cloud, part cobweb.
Gigi Jeehyun Jung’s inspiration comes from Tim Burton’s film Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, another character frozen in time: an adult who behaves like a child. The outrageously fun headwear uses items from the toy cupboard such as lego bricks and plastic zoo animals; while oversized footwear remind you of a little girl trying on her mother’s shoes. The eye-poppingly colourful display certainly brings a smile to the face.
Narae Park‘s work explores a slightly darker aspect of humanity caught between childhood and adulthood: the problems of child labour, in particular in Ethiopia, where Park has sponsored a child through Save the Children. Her range refers to the oversized clothing made from scrap materials such as polypropylene mail sacks. But despite the grim inspiration, the work celebrates the cheerfulness and optimism of the workers, in which Park draws upon the Korean joyful spirit of heung.
In a darkened corner are the gothic creations of Hyein Seo, inspired by the old horror movies in which the glamorous rich woman always seems to end up dead. The victim’s signature styling, such as the opulent fur coat, is blended with street culture in an edgy collection which looks highly wearable.
The bold blocks of colour and exciting shapes that greet you as you first enter the exhibition come from Rejina Pyo’s Structural Mode collection, and are on loan from a Belgian museum. Futuristic and visually stunning, but I pity the poor girl who wears them: these amazing outfits look more conceptual than comfortable. Pyo says this collection was designed for “a woman who can drink alone and dance alone. Careless and free.” Any prospective dance partner would risk bodily injury, but the looks are ideal to display the wearer as an object of beauty and desire. Simply gorgeous.
The “Odyssey” theme of the exhibition reflects the physical journey that the Korean designers make in their career, moving from the land of their birth to fashion schools in Europe, before returning home. The long, slow journey is expressed in the nautical motifs which adorn the exhibition space: portholes and ship-shaped detailing adorn the windows, and copper piping (which also served a functional purpose of discouraging visitors from getting too close to the costumes) completes the maritime theme.
In a discussion event that took place at the KCC on 14 February just after Eudon Choi’s catwalk show, a fashion journalist who was entertainingly provocative suggested that fashion students who come from overseas to study at London colleges have all their creativity and originality knocked out of them. In the exhibition catalogue Narae Park firmly disagrees: “I love Central St Martins’ unique environment of letting you chase after whatever you want to do. Faculty members are very open-minded, and they won’t restrain your opinions and encourage your creative spirit.” And this exhibition also rather proved him wrong.
K-Fashion Odyssey closes on 15 March.